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France in a hot-spot over Mugabe, El Bashir, Rajoelina affair
The France-Africa Summit set for Nice end of May is said to "have found Paris in a quandary” as it does not want to offend EU countries by inviting Mugabe of Zimbabwe. After a row with Egypt over ICC indicted Sudanese leader El-Bashir’s invitation, France’s position on Rajoelina of Madagascar’s invitation remains uncertain. He is under both AU and EU santions.

Zimbabwean State owned media reports today that France is under tremendous pressure from Britain, Holland and Germany not to invite the 86 year veteran leader- Mugabe. The summit- originally set for Egypt was moved to Nice after President Hosni Mubarak refused to host if Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was not present.

“Elysee Palace — the seat of the French government — has already succumbed to pressure not to invite Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir,” government mouthpiece is quoted saying... Omar al-Bashir is on an International Criminal Court arrest warrant and is therefore a "persona non grata" in France, which supported the ICC’s decision to issue a warrant.

The summit is set to take place from May 31 to June 1 in Nice.

Charge d’Affaires at the French Embassy in Harare, Dietmar Peprausch is quoted saying that "it is unfortunately too soon to answer to these questions. The invitations for the summit have not yet been sent out."

El-Bashir

The Zimbabwean Herald newspaper says President Nicolas Sarkozy recently invited President al-Bashir to send a representative in his stead. On this Petrausch said: "To be more exact, it is not an invitation that President Sarkozy sent to President al-Bashir, but a mere letter to ask him to designate a representative... Once we have the name of this representative, we will formally invite him.

"As you know, President al-Bashir is a particular case as he is indicted before the ICC, which is not the case with President Mugabe... There are still many other countries for which we did not send the invitations."

Unnamed diplomatic sources are quoted saying that “France is still considering what position to take on Zimbabwe. They want to go by the African Union position as much as possible and this means inviting President Mugabe”.

The diplomatic sources further claimed that Namibian and South African leaders Hifikepunye Pohamba and Jacob Zuma respectively “have been offered State visits in exchange for their silence on the matter." But the two leaders have reportedly declined to be bribed by something as "cheap" as a State visit, the Zimbabwean Herald reports.

Mugabe’s invitation to the 2003 France Africa summit in Paris triggered a series of demonstrations in France. In 2007, President Jacques Chirac who was being pounded in France for "mixing with bad company" was compelled to exclude the Zimbabwean President.

Madagascar

This year, besides the Mugabe and El-Bashir headache, France, which has a permanent seat at the African Union, will also have to deal with another migraine: Andry Rajoelina, the "strongman of Antananarivo". The young head of state of Madagascar is under targeted African Union (AU) sanctions.

According to AU security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra the targeted AU sanctions that affect both Andry Rajoelina and 109 of his Malagasy government "is a refusal to grant visas and a freeze of financial assets in foreign banks as well as diplomatic isolation by requesting all international organizations to refuse the accreditation of representatives of the regime in place in Antananarivo".

The European Union, of which France is a founding member, has also imposed a set of financial sanctions against Mr. Rajoelina, putting the former colonial power in a delicate position. Nonetheless, it has been reported that Madagascar counts on France for its reinstatement into the international community, especially the French speaking world.

But with himself and over one hundred of his officials under a travel ban, it is not clear whether Rajoelina’s government will be represented. The Malagasy opposition has criticized France in the wake of speculations that the former colonial power has warmed up to the Rajoelina government, which unlike the government of the ousted President, Marc Ravalomanana, is pro-France.

Quagmire

Mr. Mugabe being under EU sanctions and not under AU sanctions, coupled with the fact that the summit is viewed as a proxy AU meeting organised by an EU member state, makes it a difficult diplomatic affair for France.

While France’s decision not to invite Mr. Bashir due to pressure from the international community has not gone down well with Egypt, a country not only seen as a force to reckon with in Africa but also in the Middle East, inviting Rajoelina to a predominantly AU member state meeting stands to provoke a diplomatic clamour.

But whether France will act as a core member of the Francophonie (considered as the commonwealth of French Speaking territories) and overlook EU and AU restrictions, by inviting Andry Rajoelina, fully extricating itself from this seemingly diplomatic quagmire unscathed remains uncertain.


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